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Michelle Close Mills

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A Place Called Curtis
By Michelle Close Mills
Monday, August 30, 2010

Rated "G" by the Author.

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Recent stories by Michelle Close Mills
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           >> View all 44

The purity of Northern Michigan...

I'm a married, tree hugging hippie mom, and a proud card carrying Democrat. I’m also a writer.


Until recently most of what I composed was pleasant, sweet, and spiritually enlightening.


But reminiscent of the sixties, the world is a rapidly changing place and as a result my writing has changed along with it.


In the last eight months, I've penned the emotions around me; anger, disillusionment, sadness, disappointment, and fear. In spite of dark political and environmental issues, I've still tried to give a positive slant on hateful, frightening subjects; trying to inspire others (in true hippie fashion) to take a proactive approach in their corner of the world.


As any activist knows, trying to nurture a broken world can be addicting, and incredibly draining. The more we do shows us what still remains undone. As a result, I run on sheer adrenalin until Mother Nature knocks me on my ass.


"You're always trying to fix everything," Mom remarked. "When are you going to take care of yourself? You’re simply worn out. I think we should consider going to Curtis to get you away from your life for a few days. There will still be broken stuff to write about when you get back."


I have an awesome mom.  


Curtis is a tiny hamlet in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (a/k/a “the U.P.”), wedged between Lake Michigan and Lake Superior on Lake Manistique. My grandparents began vacationing there in the 1930's; long before I was born. Because of its remote location, it’s remained its untouched charm. Curtis is the type of village that would easily qualify for a "Where in the hell is Curtis MI?" bumper sticker.


But I think that's how the locals (a/k/a yoopers) like it.


Mom and Pop "resorts" consisting of tiny basic cabins, motels, docks, and small rental boats are scattered along the shoreline. There's a few restaurants, a couple of gift shops, a small grocery, a gas station, post office, boat dealership, and an elementary school but not much else; a genuine "blink and you'll miss it" kind of place. 


Mom has been to Curtis so many times she could find it in her sleep. I've been there five times starting in childhood. Despite its familiarity, the Upper Peninsula and Curtis always seems fresh and new each time we go. From the moment we cross the Mackinac Bridge, the vast blue of the never-ending Great Lakes is all around, miles of infrequently traveled two lane roads weave in and out of thick woods dotted by hunting shacks.  


The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is a place where one conjures up their own fun; reading, board games, fishing, boating, checking out Great Lakes shorelines, waterfalls, wild flowers, rock formations, nature trails, lighthouses and pioneer cemeteries with crudely carved rock monuments to mark the brave souls who rest there.


When I was a little girl, people would drive into the dump around dusk, turn off their lights and wait for furry four legged animals to clamber out of the woods looking for a meal. We were never disappointed. There were bears, skunks, deer, and even moose. It was better than going to the zoo. Like all cool stuff, the practice came to a halt when the dump owner realized that society was getting too litigious for its own good. If Yogi injured a city slicker, they might hire an attorney to sue his britches off.


But dump or no dump the critters are still around, and if it's your lucky day you can still get a good look at them anywhere in the U.P. 


In the evening Curtis rolls up the sidewalks. This allows locals and visitors a chance to enjoy what they came there for in the first place; lounging alongside a glassy lake, catching a spectacular sunset, and slapping at mosquitoes while perfecting the art of face to face conversation.


Imagine. No overpriced cartoon mouse is required to create memories.


Cell phones are practically useless in Curtis. When I tried to check in with my husband in Florida, I had one heck of a time getting a signal. An old timer informed us that if we stood at the end of our dock pointing southwest, left leg lifted and tin foil wrapped around our heads we might get a few bars.


It didn’t work.


Altogether Mom and I spent five lovely days in the UP. I got to hug some REAL TREES instead of writing about them, to breathe in clean air, and to take pleasure in some of the most gorgeous scenery God ever designed. It’s a place of peace, and purity.


When I returned home, the world's angst was as acute and loud as ever, waiting for me to put pen to paper, fingers to keyboard. 


But I can handle it now. I'm finally rested and ready for battle.


Bring it on.



Michelle Close Mills ©


       Web Site: Worldwide Hippies

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Reviewed by Jean Pike 8/31/2010
What a wonderful article, Michelle! I've never been to Michigan, but Curtis sounds so lovely, like a breath of fresh air. Love the photo, too :)
Reviewed by Regis Auffray 8/30/2010
As any activist knows, trying to nurture a broken world can be addicting, and incredibly draining. The more we do shows us what still remains undone. As a result, I run on sheer adrenalin until Mother Nature knocks me on my ass.

I know this as I spent four years fighting with Shell, Esso, Chevron, Husky and their dumping of toxic run-off in a local stream. You are right, Michelle. It is exhausting at times and yes, my family life suffered for it. This is a wonderful article/experience that you have shared here. Thank you. Love and best wishes,


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